A SCAMMER tricked a mum into thinking she was raising money to help her disabled daughter before running off with the £5,000 donations.
Mum-of-five Sue Baxter, 36, desperately needed to raise thousands so she could buy a specialist bed for her then three-year-old daughter Katie who has a rare disorder.
She appealed for help on social media and thought her prayers had been answered when Tracey Smith offered to raise funds for her daughter.
But the mum was devastated when fraudster Smith ran off with the auction proceeds after well-wishers donated weekend breaks, hampers and festival tickets.
The family were even forced to leave their home on the Isle of Wight after furious locals believed they had swindled the cash.
“I trusted Tracey like a friend and she betrayed my daughter”, Sue told the Sunday Mirror.
“She set up an auction and the whole island rallied round. Donations flooded in – weekend breaks, hampers, TVs, furniture, champagne, festival tickets. The generosity was breathtaking.
“But months went by and the money didn’t materialise.
We had to run for our lives when the finger of blame was pointed at us.”
Katie, who turns nine on Monday, is one of only 25 people in the world with infantile Parkinsonism – a severe movement disorder.
When she was diagnosed at the age of three, her family was warned she may never walk as her legs were so weak.
She suffered with multiple seizures and would sometimes have five in a row.
As Katie grew, she needed a high-sided medical bed to stop her from falling out
But her family struggled to get the £3,000 needed for this medical bed, so Sue appealed for help on social media.
She was contacted by Smith who claimed she was setting up a children’s charity, IOW Carousel, and would fundraise for Katie.
The callous scammer even claimed her own son had Parkinson’s.
“There were times when we’d sob down the phone to each other, sharing stories of caring for our poorly children,” Sue said.
When Smith set up an auction, the whole island rallied round and offered generous donations.
Smith claimed to have raised £3,500 from the auction in December 2013.
In early 2014 Smith told Sue the fund had hit £5k through other events.
But Sue said months went by and she never received any of the money.
She eventually went to the police – but was told not to talk about the case as they were actively investigating.
This meant the islanders turned on the mum, spitting on her and even breaking the windows of her home.
Police suspected £7,000 was missing, but Smith admitted taking £1,000 fraudulently.
She got 12 months suspended and had to pay £1,000 compensation.
Katie was eventually given her specialist bed with the help of a genuine charity, Daisy Chains.